From left, Clemy Garza, Rio Rancho seniors Carrie Merrill, Amanda Mendoza, Kiala Rogers and Paula Williams of Ronald McDonald House (Garrison Wells/The Observer)


Prom is special.

At Rio Ranch High School, juniors and seniors made their prom even more special, raising $1,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.

Students were asked to add $1 to each prom ticket, with the money to go to the charity, which has two houses in the Albuquerque area. And they did it on their own.

The students “are a beacon of light,” said Clemy Garza, who owns the Rio Rancho McDonald’s restaurants. She is adding to her restaurants with a new one at the intersection of Northern and Unser Blvds. with a late July target opening date.

Garza and Paula Williams, chief operating officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico, accepted the check at Garza’s McDonald’s on 528 near the Smith’s grocery store.

Presenting the check were Rio Rancho seniors Carrie Merrill, Amanda Mendoza and Kiala Rogers.

“We decided the most important thing was to give back to the community, especially after COVID, and seeing the negative impacts it had on our community. We wanted to do anything we could to help and Ronald McDonald House is the best opportunity to do so,” Rogers said.

Ronald McDonald House ensures that families have access to the care and resources they need – especially when they have a sick child. According to its web site, Ronald McDonald House offers more than 685 programs in 62 countries or regions, has provided 1.4 million overnight stays for families and has more than 136,000 volunteers.

It has two facilities in Albuquerque — The Yale Ronald McDonald House and the Highlands Ronald McDonald House in the Springhill Suites by Marriott in downtown Albuquerque. For more information about New Mexico click here.

“I just wanted to recognize what they are doing,” Garza said. “To me, when you start seeing philanthropy at this young age, they will continue to do it as they grow. Hopefully, they will inspire other high school students to do something of their own.”

Williams said she was particularly grateful because the students did this on their own.

“It’s very cool,” she said, “This was all their idea.”

The donation, she added, “will enable us to help provide for a family.”

The local houses are about 65 percent full, she said. There is space for 51 families.

“We will be able to provide a home away from home,” she said,